But my spouse never hits me. Am I a victim of abuse?

You have been aware for some time that your marriage seems worse than other unhappy marriages. Instead of just arguing and disagreeing frequently, your fights are intense and usually involve shouts, insults and even things being thrown. Your spouse has never physically struck you, though. Like other Illinois residents going through the same thing, you might wonder if this behavior qualifies as abuse.

Spousal abuse may seem cut-and-dry when it involves physical violence. However, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse methods are more insidious and difficult to recognize. A common denominator in most abusive relationships involves the abuser enforcing and maintaining control over his or her victim, as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence points out. Your spouse may avoid the domestic violence label by never hitting you, but could still be an abuser by exhibiting other behaviors, including the following:

  • Insulting, belittling and embarrassing you in front of others
  • Undermining your efforts or refusing to recognize your achievements
  • Making you feel as if you are never "good enough," no matter how hard you try to please him or her
  • Frequently becoming enraged at the smallest provocation
  • Isolating you from your friends and family
  • Not allowing you to have a job or access to the internet, a phone or transportation

Psychological abuse is difficult to escape for several reasons. You may have a hard time gathering proof of emotional abuse, as opposed to having photographs or police reports of physical injuries. You might not realize you are being abused or you may not know how to get away from the psychological dependence your spouse has trapped you in. It may help to realize that abuse advocates, trusted friends and family members and others with experience in domestic violence can be your allies.